An oak tree will stand as lasting tribute to the NHS heroes of Middlesbrough’s Covid-19 response.

Longlands & Beechwood ward member Cllr Joan McTigue paid for the oak from the allowance she receives as a committee chair and is dedicating it to those who have put their own lives on the line during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr McTigue was joined by operatives from Middlesbrough Council’s Area Care team to plant the tree on the field opposite The James Cook University Hospital on Marton Road.

And in the new year, she plans to install a plaque explaining the tree’s significance, and the town’s gratitude for the work of those on the front line.

Cllr McTigue planting the tree near James Cook University Hospital

Cllr McTigue said: “We have never had a year like this in my lifetime and I hope we never have to live through one like it again.

“I wanted to plant this oak tree as a commemoration of the tireless work and sometimes terrible sacrifices made by NHS staff in caring for those afflicted by this dreadful disease.

They’ve put their own lives on the line to look after and protect us, and as a town, we owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. I also like to put some of my allowance towards making my ward look nicer with bulbs, plants, bushes, and trees, and we are losing far too many trees because of house building. I hope the tree will be here for generations – long after we have gone – as a reminder to people of the dedicated staff who did so much for my ward and the whole town in 2020.”

Welcoming the planting, Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: “I’m committed planting at least 10,000 trees across Middlesbrough over the next two years, so initiatives like Joan’s are a great way to be part of that.

Trees are so important as the lungs of our environment, absorbing CO2 and helping to enhance existing green areas and bring back lost open space. They’re great for recreation and physical activity, improve the appearance of the town and contribute to tackling climate change. Combining all those benefits with a tribute to our amazing NHS staff who given so much in 2020 is just a great idea.”